The broodmare gone dressage horse, Weihegold OLD, is a multi-talented black beauty. With a refined head, harmonious conformation, elastic basic gaits and the sought-after black coat Weihegold OLD owns important preconditions to stand out as a dressage horse. She made full use of those qualities to win the coveted 2013 Nürnberger Burgpokal Final for Developing Prix St Georges last weekend at the 2013 CDI Frankfurt.
A field of 13 horses competed in the season finale of the Nurnberger Burgpokal, a 14-qualifier show circuit throughout Germany to find "Germany's next dressage-star." Olympic team silver medalist Dorothee Schneider was the only rider who qualified two horses, Derano and Showtime. Last year's winner, young rider Maria-Charlott Schürmann has made the transition to Grand Prix with Burlington, but remarkably managed to qualify another licensed chestnut stallion, Edward (by Embassy I), for her second final this year. It was also the second final for Kathleen Keller and Uta Gräf, both showing the same mounts from last years's final, Desperados and Damon Jerome NRW.
Having qualified at Isernhagen in June with a score of almost 75%, Isabell Werth's assistant trainer Beatrice Buchwald probably had the ride of a lifetime aboard the 8-year-old Oldenburger mare Weihegold OLD and won the prestigious final. „She's a real fighter and I can rely 100% on her," said Buchwald before her winning ride. Her horse proved her right.
Both started a bit timidly with the first extended trot not really swinging throughthe back. The horse did not show the required lengthening of the frame but Weihegold OLD then seemed to relax and showed nicely regulated trot half-passes on both leads before executing a significantly better second extended trot with much impulsion from behind. Again the neck should be opened more in an extension. The extended walk was very relaxed with the mare striding calmly and with much stretch on the diagonal. Both walk pirouettes, a tricky movement to show really correctly, were diligent, even though they were a bit bigger towards the end. The judges scored the movement between 6 and 8. The half canter pirouettes were settled and pronounced on both leads with the second one being slightly bigger than the first one. The flying changes every 3- and 4-strides were both very safe and flowingly shown with a clear forward tendency, although in the future the strides should become more pronounced and upwards. Judges awarded correct 7s and 8 for them with Martin Richenhagen only giving a low 4 for the 4-times which really seemed out of place. In the extended canter on the long side towards the entrance Buchwald, who impressed with her quiet and deep seat, risked something with Weihegold OLD coming above the bit towards the end. Both finished their classy ride with an impressive last extended trot to take away the victory with 74,732%.
Their win was quite unexpected after their third place in the warm-up class on Thursday morning. A very happy Buchwald later confessed during the prize-giving that she not even dreamt of winning. Weihegold is the successful embodiment of an embryotransfer broodmare gone international dressage horse. The Don Schufro x Sandro Hit mare, bred by Inga Bastian and owned by Christine Arns-Krogmann, already made herself a name before being turned to sport. Her daughters Weihcera (by Zack) and Fürstin Weihe (by Fürst Romancier) both followed in her mother's footsteps and were successfully shown at the Oldenburger Elite Mare Show in Rastede. Her only male offspring so far, Jewel's Sir Weihbach, was the top foal at Vechta and after his licensing was given to Ingrid Klimke this autumn for further dressage training. Weihegold made her mark from the start, having placed 3rd at the Bundeschampionat as a 4-year-old and reaching the final at the Young Horse World Championships in Verden a year later under Kira Wulferding. Beatrice Buchwald and Weihegold OLD developed their careers side by side, both winning their first S-class last year.
After having scored an impressive double victory in the warm-up-class two days before, Dorothee Schneider was the favorite to win the final with either Derano or Showtime. In the end it was the leggy elegant chestnut Derano, 2nd on Thursday, who took reserve honors for his rider. Sharing the same age with Weihegold OLD, the Hanoverian Derano (by De Niro x Warkant) is still a rather inexperienced horse at that level, Schneider revealed before her ride. The Framersheim based Olympian has only taken over the gelding's training this year after she became head rider of Peterhof Stud.
What Derano might lack in experience, he makes up with his undeniable quality. The bright chestnut is a very elegant horse with an expressive eye, which unfortunately saw a lot during his entrance into the arena. The electric atmosphere and Christmas decoration affected more dressage horses in the Final. However, Schneider skillfully managed to keep Derano focused and he recovered after a cautiously ridden first extended trot. The trot half-passes were very elegant with the horse being nicely elevated and bent. In the second extended trot Schneider could risk more with the horse now settling in and getting a calming pat from his rider before the extended walk. The walk was quite relaxed and long-striding, even though the horse was slightly looking, but he stayed with his rider and listened to her. In the walk-pirouettes the horse showed a very nice self-carriage and executed diligent steps, even though the second one became a bit big. The half canter-pirouettes were already very collected and controlled as Derano showed its degree of collection by executing them quite deeply on the haunches. In the second one Derano became a bit hasty towards the end. Just like in trot, the half-passes in canter were very light-footed and evenly shown. Both tempi change diagonals were faultless, but in the course of the gelding's further training will surely get more expression. The halt at the beginning of the last centre-line before the rein-back was not an easy task for some horses; not so for Derano who halted very nicely and did a quiet and straight rein-back, once again proving his submission. The last extended trot was the best of all three, very elastic and with much lengthening of the strides. After the final halt the rupturous applause from the audience unsettled the horse quite a lot after the final halt which just showed what a master rider Schneider is to have kept the Hanoverian's focus and obedience throughout the ride. Both stayed well ahead of the third placed rider and they were only about 0,7% behind the winners.
While Schneider's and Buchwald's success might have been expected after the warm-up-class, the third placed pair came a bit as a surprise: Holga Finken's bereiter, Norwegian Isabel Bache and the only 7-year-old Hanoverian stallion Riverdance (by Rascalino x Alabaster). After placing seventh in the warm-up, both absolutely rose to the occasion to break into the top three at this important event. "It has always been a dream of mine to ride here, once in a lifetime compete in the Nürnberger Burgpokal. It is great fun," said the Norwegian.
The bright and compact stallion is a horse with lots of natural impulsion in trot; he used it to the best of his abilities in the first extended trot which scored quite highly, even though a real lengthening of the strides was rather hard to detect. The trot half-passes were among the best in the whole field, Riverdance widely crossing, correctly bend and absolutely balanced. The extended walk doesn't seem to be the sympathetic horse's forté as it was rather short and could have also shown more stretching of the top ine. The walk pirouettes were diligently executed with the second a bit smaller than the first one. Both canter pirouettes were well done, the horse taking full advantage of its natural uphill tendency in canter by circling rhythmicly, uphill and sitting already really deep on its haunches. The medium canter was ridden like an extended canter but again was very uphill and impulsive. However the horse should have been in front of the vertical in this movement. Few, even Grand Prix level competed horses, struggle to keep balance in the canter half passes but Riverdance showed very nice ones, always balanced and correct. The flying changes were quite straight and mistake-free, but the horse became too tight in the neck. Unfortunately an askew rein-back on the final centre-line cost some valuable points at the end, but all in all the pair had shown a very good ride on a constantly happy looking horse which was rewarded with a placing Bache never expected
No newcomers to Frankfurt's festively decorated arena, Kathleen Keller and Desperados maybe had the most harmonious rides in the final, bringing them up to a well deserved fourth place. Kathleen, daughter of renowned German trainer Dolf-Dietram Keller, is no stranger to the dressage scene, having won the legendary Hamburg Dressage Derby with Wonder FRH. However the horse she was showing for the second time in a Burgpokal final "is someone very special to me. He was born on our farm, my parents bred him, I know him from early on, we are both Keller products," Kathleen joked in the interview before starting her ride. The now 8-year old Hanoverian gelding is special indeed as he is a horse quite different in looks from most of his mates. Even though he is sired by Danone I he cannot deny his dam's sire Werther.
The liver chestnut is a very sympathetic gelding who always expressed contentment and happiness throughout the ride exemplified by Desperados' actively working hind-legs. In the trot half-passes the horse was crossing widely, the trot extension was very energetic from behind swinging through the body. The extended walk was really relaxed, the horse showing even strides with good overtrack and a maximum of stretching. In the walk pirouettes the judges were absolutely not in unison, awarding marks between 5 and 8. The canter pirouettes were both regular and controlled, but the second one was a bit big towards the end. The medium canter was ridden as such and stood out with real lengthening of the frame. Even though the tempi changes were both faultless and relaxed, the horse needs to gain more expression and maybe isn't 100% straight yet. Desperados might not be the stunning type like other horses in the final, but he was one of the best ridden ones, always presented in a nice frame with super self carriage and a light bit contact; a horse obviously at peace, exemplified by the relaxed state in which he left the arena despite the applause from the seats.
It should not go unnoticed that Dorothee Schneider was able to place her second horse, the Sandro Hit-gelding Showtime, not far behind Keller in fifth place after the horse, which is owned by Gabriele Kippert, had won the warm-up.
The horse with the highest qualification score in the field, the Rhinelander Damon Jerome NRW, obviously didn't have the best of his days in the final and could only score 68.39% with Uta Gräf, leaving them in 11th position after having been 7th a year earlier and having had an extremely successful 2013 season. Last year's winner Maria-Charlott Schürmann was a promising 4th in the warm-up-class with the licensed Celle state stud stallion Edward. She has only been riding him since March 2013, but in the final mistakes in the flying changes and an error of course drew both back to 8th place.
After last year's dangerous scenes in the prize-giving, caused by having all finalists together in a restricted area of the arena, this year the organizers conducted a kind of prize-giving usual at CDIs: with only the first three-placed horses in the award-ceremony. Despite being a bit distracted by the music and applause at the beginning of the ceremony, Weihegold OLD calmed down quickly and bore the lengthy congratulations with grace. Contrarily the 2nd and 3rd placed horses were obviously tense. Dorothee Schneider's Derano gave some glimpses of his piaffe and passage talent and clearly didn't enjoy the razzmatazz, but he has to get used to it as with his talent it will not have been his last time in the spotlights!
Two extra prizes were traditionally awarded during this prize giving. The one for best riding-style was given to Kathleen Keller. Her quiet deep and highly elegant seat stood out from all the others. The prize for the best rein back was given to Thomas Wagner's gelding Frederic S, 7th in the final and this year's Inter I winner at CDI Wiesbaden.
By Silke Rottermann for Eurodressage.com
Photos © Barbara Schnell